Title: Interview with Richard DeBoast (May 23, 1988)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00006593/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Richard DeBoast (May 23, 1988)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: May 23, 1988
Spatial Coverage: 12071
Lee County (Fla.) -- History.
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00006593
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Lee County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: LEE 42

Table of Contents
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
Full Text

This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.

This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limits the amount of materials that may be

For all other permissions and requests, contacat the
the University of Florida.

D-This is an interview with Richard D. DeBoast of Ft. Myers, Florida. The

interview is being held in Mr. DeBoast's office at 2118 First Street in

Ft. Myers, Florida. The date is May 23, 1988. The interviewer is David


Before we get started, just tell me briefly about your background. Where

you were born and when.

R-I was born in Salem, Oregon in 1932. My dad was a sales rep. for a phar-

meceutical firm: Eli Lilly & Co. He was promoted and moved to Indiana-

polis in 1947 and of course, I went along. Graduated from the University

of Indiana and went in the Air Force. I was stationed in Houston. I was

a pilot and we flew frequently to Florida. And two weeks before I was

ready to get out of the Air Force I determined that I wanted to live in

Florida. So, I got my Encyclopedias and looked up what universities were

located in Florida and I wrote a letter to the University of Florida Law

School and they accepted me immediately because I had a transcript which

I had sent to them. Two weeks after I had made that decision we were on

out way to Florida. And I did live in Gainesville and went to the Univer-

sity of Florida Law School. Following which....

D--What year did you graduate?

R-I graduated in 1960. And I made a list of towns that I would like to

possibly live in and work in and made a trip to each one of them and

Ft. Myers was where I got a job offer so I have been here since 1960.

D--Tell me a little bit more about how you came to work for Gulf American.

R-In the early sixties, about 1962, I recall Gulf American,knowing that

certain advantages would occur to them used the Lee County attorney, Bill

Carmine, as their private council in this area. And I was involved with

a condemnation trial with Bill Carmine as the county attorney. I was

representing private landowners and we fought bitterly for a week. At

the end of the trial Bill said, "Rick, let's bury the hatchet. I'll take


you to my hunting camp in the Barrier Island area of Collier County."

And we went down there for two days and went hog hunting and became good

friends. Shortly after that he resigned as county attorney and moved to

Miami to be vice-president of Gulf American. And he asked me to take

over his practice which I declined to do but I was given the represen-

tation of Gulf American in the southwest Florida area. When I was 30

years old.

D--Tell me a little bit about, you had stuff written down about your

experiences or the things that you participated in with Gulf American.


D--When I hear stuff I have questions on, I'll ask more questions.

R--One thing I will never forget because my whole career in the last ten

years has been based on condominiums but... In July of 1963 they came to

me and asked me to a condominium in Cape Coral and I could barely spell

the word. The legislature had passed the original condominium act only

in May of 1963. So, I sat down with the statute and tried to determine

what would be necessary to put a condominium down. And after working on

it for about a week I decided that I needed some guidance. So, I got in

touch with the Florida Bar and they put me in touch with a Ft. Lauderdale

attorney, Russell McCon who had written the condominium act. He generously

gave me a set of documents which I still have, by the way to use for a

guide. And I wrote Gulf American's first condominium out there called

Newport Manor which is still there and still operating. After that there

were lots and lots of things. I did litigation for them. Usually in suits

where their salesman where they had unimpeded access from their canal to

the Gulf of Mexico when in fact there were many cases where there were

salinity weirs which are like dams which you can't get a boat across.

And for a period of probably for up to ten years I would have two or

three of those cases going at any particular moment in time. They did more


outrageous things than that. In one case, while they were developing a

unit of homes out there, they discovered that there was high quality road

grade shell in the ground. And in order to make use of that themself th

simply move this unit of Cape Coral one mile to the west. Without telling

the purchaser that their location was different. And the sight of the shell

that they took out can clearly be seen today on a map of Cape Coral as

Four Freedoms Park.

D-Four Freedoms is down over here somewhere but this is the Eight Lakes area.

What year did they do that? Do you remember?

R-That was in approximately 1966, I think. I.... That is why this photo-

graph exists. As the counsel for the company, I hired a photographer

and he went over to their sales office and photographed their sales map,

which was on the wall. They even had to take the top off the counter in

order to uncover part of it. This a color photo map that was made to try

and defend them in litigation resulting from moving that subdivision.

D-So, they didn't inform the people at all? How did they find out?

R-I don't recall how they found it out. But that is one of the egregious

things that their salespeople were responsible for.

D-Was that one of the things that the state lands sales board got after them


R-It very likely was because that was the time frame when their were congres-

sional hearing on land sales practices. And Leonard Rosen was called as

one of the principle witnesses. And I can say without real fear of being

wrong that Leonard Rosen is more or less responsible for the birth of the

land sales legislation in the state of Florida and in part responsible for

it's passage nationally with the interstate land sales act.

D-Just because of all the tings that Gulf American was doing.

R-Their salesmen were totally outrageous. They would say whatever was

necessary to make a sale and it didn't have to be true at all.


D--Do you think that was because Leonard and Jack just didn't have more

overseeing and weren't really watching what was going on, or were they

pretty much in agreement with what was going on?

R--Well, Leonard and Jack were very different. I didn't know Jack nearly as

well as I knew Leonard. But he was pretty straight laced and I think

Leonard kept him in large part in the dark in a lot of these practices.

D--So, like Leonard was really running the company.

R--Oh, there is no doubt in my mind that he was. He was a very colorful

person. They had a building in Miami at 79 and Biscayne which was about

twelve stories and Leonard's office was the penthouse. He had a dining

room, a kitchen, a work-out room as well as his regular office. And

Leonard loved to play tennis and he would upon occasion he would arrive

at a meeting with lots of people in three piece suits and conservative

ties, dressed in his tennis shorts. I remember one occasion in particu-

lar where it reminded me so much about the story of the emporer's clothes.

This was a conference where there were probably about five or six people

in the room all dressed up and Leonard was sitting in his swivel chair

with his fly open in tennis shorts and his tennis shoes untied and

nobody blinked an eye.

D--So he was pretty free wheeling. He just did pretty much what he wanted to.

R--He did. I remember another time when he called me up at home and he

said this was in like '65. "Rick, I just bought an airline. It was Modern

Air. I've got four engine jets. I want to land them in Ft. Myers. I want

you to get the airport runway lengthened. Get in touch with Bruce Scott,

the county commissioner mechanic and aceman. You can pledge up to a

quarter of million dollars of company money as long as the county matches

it." As it turns out it only cost 80,000 dollars to lengthen the runway

and Gulf American paid half.

IL1I 5

And it was done in about five months.

D-That was just so they could land their jets bringing customers down? Now

I understand they built little terminals over there, is that correct?

R-I'm going to have to break this off for a minute. They had a ten year

lease on some of the airport property and they built a terminal that was

still there. Then at the time was about ten times as big and as nice as

the terminal for the commercial airline passengers.

D-Now, the old terminal used to be the one where.

--break in tape---

D-Mike's landing is over there. Where the small planes park over there, is

that the old terminal?

R-Well, the terminal that I'm referring to was even older than that one.

The regular passenger terminal was like almost one room.

D-So, Gulf American built their own terminal because the county terminal

was so small and everything and they needed a bigger terminal to handle

the traffic they were bringing in.

R-And that is now what I think they call Skyline Aviation terminal.

D--So, Gulf American paid for the lenghtening of the runway, at Paige Field?

R-Yeah, they paid half of it. And I was on hand when his first four engine

Convair eight eighty jet landed. It was a big thing. It was the first jet

to ever land in Ft. Myers. And there were a lot of other interesting

things. It seems like I was always being asked to put out fires for

them because they just did things that you wouldn't even think of today.

One of them involved the failure to get state dredging permits. At the

time and this was in about '66, you could buy a dredging permit from the

state for a nickel per cubic yard of material dredged. And they

simply were negligent in not doing this as they were supposed to. And

this was also the time when the environmental movement was coming in and

it was getting progressively harder to get dredging permits. And the


price was creeping up from a nickel to a dime to fifty cents to a buck.

And they had dverdredged three and a half million cubic yards on the north

shore of the Caloosahachee, which could clearly be seen in aeriel photo-

graphs of the river because the dredged areas looked black and the other

areas you could see the bottom. So, in an effort to settle the state's

claim against them after much maneuvering they ended up swapping the state

most of the land they had that constituted the Fakahatcha strand in

Coller county. In return for the state's fining them for dredging three

and a half million cubic yards without a permit.

D-I see, so the Fakahatche'- strand went to the state and then the state,

did the state still fine them for the dredging.

R-Well, they valued the amount of money that Gulf American owed as equivalent to the

value of the Fakahatchee strand. And this was simply ministerial oversight.

The whole thing need never have happened because approval was pretty

much automatic. You just went up there and paid them the money for what

you wanted to redge and they gave you a permit. Somebody just forgot to

do this.

D-Whod did they have to go to in Tallahassee?

R-Oh, there were a lot of people up there. It was basically the state

cabinet made the final decision. And at that time, they had an agency called the

Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund. And it was with the director

and the people of that thing I was making almost weekly trips to Talla-

hassee trying to get these people to agree, trying to get the state peo-

ple to agree. And some of the people got involved. I think I wrote down
here, one of them was Reed. Who later worked for the Federal

Government. He's a big environmentalist in lives in Hope Sound.

D-He worked for the state at the time?

R--O.K. I wrote down three of them. Nat Reed who was board member of the

I.I. Board. Jim Apthorp, who I think was the executive director of the


I.I. Board. And Randolph Hodges who was the state senator from Cedar

Key and who was president of the state senate. I also had a bunch of

meetings with those people in Tallahassee because Gulf American wanted
to develop the area that runs along its western boundary. And we
devised many agreements that might be acceptable to the staff in the

I.I. Board and then we would go into the state cabinet meeting and have

them turn it down. So, that area, as a result, is still in its original


D-What kind of discussion did you have like with Randolph Hodges and stuff?

R-Well, about the parameters and what might be acceptable to the state in

terms of developing what was generally coming to be known more every day

as environmentally sensitive. And you know, we'll leave you this and you

will let us have this. We thought we had a deal completely worked out

in 1969 and the head of the I.I. Board who was going to make the recomenda-

tion to the state changed his mind without our knowledge and recommended

that it not be approved. After that, it was all downhill as far as the

environmental movement was concerned and they had the upper hand. And

Gulf American has been accused of raping the land. They did things up

there then that would never get off the ground today.

D-Was Gulf American different from some of the other land development com-

panies in that respect where they'd gei special privileges or was it

pretty much everybody dredging and doing what they wanted?

R-Well, I think Gulf American was the most aggressive and they were cer-

tainly the largest. They had development going in Southeren Arizona and

in about four different places in Florida. During the late sixties, I

think they were the largest land developer in the United States without

any question and perhaps in the world. And they made their money by being

aggressive. And at one time, in the early seventies after they sold out

to GAC, Leonard and Jack's share was worth at that time 66 million dol-

lars, as I recall. And of course, later in 1973 and '74 when they took


a chapter eleven, I think that vanished forever, but it couldn't take Leo-

nard's spirit away from him. As you know, he went on later to Nevada and

I think he sold timeshare out there.

D-That' s what I understand.

R-But as an example of that aggressiveness there was a square mile of land on

Harney Point that the company was filling by dredging. And the way you

fill after you dredge is to build a dike around the perimeter of the

property and the dredge pipes put sand and mud and water into what is

the first pond and the water settles and then it becomes dry land. And

this was right next to what is now what they call the Eco Park, like in

ecology. Out by Everest' Parkway and at that time it really was beautiful.

There were creeks & canals and there was lots of fish and birds and

animals. And Gulf American was having trouble with getting rid of the

excess water in there. They say the dike broke. It wouldn't surprised

me if they had made it break but the result was that all the area which

is now the Eco Park was filled with fine silt and essentially they ruined

it. The owner of this Edo Park property, at that time it was just

property, was two brothers from Connecticut. Julius Wetstone and his

brother. And so, when they found their land had been covered with this

sticky, gummy sediment they sued Gulf American and Rick DeBoast was

asked to defend the company. I even went over there to the Eco P ark

on the airboat because it was the only way you could get there after

they filled it with mud and somewhere I've got a photograph of myself

waist deep in this stuff. Anyway, we tried to settle the case and I

remember, and I will always remember a midnight meeting at the river

front Holiday Inn in Ft. Myers to try and negotiate a settlement. I had

Leonard Rosen with me and Julius Wetstone had an attorney from Tampa

whose name I have forgotten. And Leonard and Julius would shout at

each other. They were very much alike. Both quite temperamental. And


after shouting at Julius and his lawyer, Leonard said "Let's have a con-

ference Rick." and he took me into the bathroom of the motel and shut

the door and said, "You know, I'm not really mad, I'm just doing this for

effect so go along with me.," And at midnight we agreed on a figure to

settle the case. And Leonard paid my secretary, Margie Bear, who was

still with me a hundred dollars in cash to come down to the office at

12:30 at night and write up settlement papers. While she was doing this,

the opposing counsel for Wetstone from Tampa went across Broadway Street

to what was then called the Broadway Bar and he bought a bottle of Canadian

Club Whiskey and proceeded to get bombed out of his mind. And then

the next day at noon the settlement had been effectuated and all the

people and lawyers involved went over to the Royal Palm Yacht Club and

they had a reconciliation lunch. The only thing I'll always remember

about that, again, is I found out how much I charged Leonard for rep-

resenting him which was 12,000 dollars and the attorney from Tampa

got 25,000 from his clients.

D-Do you have any idea what the settlement was?

R--No, that has escaped me completely. It was in terms of money, but I

don't remember how much money was involved.

D-What year was that?

R-That was in November, 1967.

D--So, they just filled in that area that is now Eco Park? They pumped

all this silt and everything in there and....

R-Yeah, on purpose to make more land. They covered the mangrove area that


D-They found out it was owned by somebody else?

R-Oh, they knew it was owned by somebody. The two parcels were directly

adjacent. The Ecb Park parcel was to thenorth and the Gulf American par-

cel was to the south. And, regarding the dredging, I remember another law-


suit, they had three of them, but there was one of the called the -"Sandy."

And in 1965 there was a real strong windstorm and the Sandy which was

anchored in the rose garden area sank and Gulf American made a claim

against their insurance company which I handled. And the insurance com-

pany claimed that the dredge was not sea worthy and that's the reason

that it sank. And in this case, Gulf American was right because the

sandy was sea worthy., Somebody had left a hatch cover undone and it filled

up with water.

D-So the insurance company paid off or settled?

R-It was an agreed to settlement. O.K. during that same year, in October

of 1967 Gulf American decided that if their community was going to grow

that they needed to have a financial institution and they tried to get

a savings and loan started., And I was involved in that to the extent

that they wanted me to be one of the founding directors and in order to

do that I had to live in Cape Coral. At the time, I didn't but they

moved me to Cape Coral and they paid me rent so that I could be a resi-

dent for trying to get the savings and loan. And we ended up having

hearing a couple of times in late 1967 in Washington D.C. The company

hired one of Lyndon Johnson's former aids. He was a guy, he used to wear

jumpsuits and was homosexual and he was the guy from who Gulf America

was trying to get the influence to obtain the approval from the govern-

ment agency that ran savings and loans. It didn't work. First Federal

of Ft. Myers was there with their president, Tommy Howard, and their

attorney Lloyd Hendry &' they successfully resisted the granting of a

charter. And probably would be interested in talking about the company's

influence in establishing in Cape Coral. The company was viewed by the

purchasers out there as a parent and any time anything went wrong with

anything they wanted Gulf American to pay for it. And the company

thought that they, that if the city were incorporated, perhaps the city

'/I -11

would be looked at as the parent and that in time that is precisely what

happened. I was the only attorney in Cape Coral at the time so I became

a member of the incorporation committee. And of course, I was the company

attorney at the same time.

D--When was this?

R-This was late '69. The first meeting of the incorporation committee was

held in Cape Coral at the Italian-American club on Tuesday, September

2, 1969. And at that meeting we planned for a public presentation to

everybody that lived in Cape Coral talking about the virtues of incor-

poration. And so the big public meeting was held on November 24th, 1969

at the Cape Coral Yacht Club. And during that period of time we met week-

ly as the incorporation committee and I as the company's lawyer, wrote

the charter for the city of Cape Coral. And I didn't get paid for it

by the citizens, I got paid for it by Gulf American. But it was a good

corporate charter. And if they were still using it now they would be

better off. It was a strong council, weak mayor. The mayor was to be

simply ceremonial. And the council was to make all the decisions. And

all of the council were to serve at large so that you wouldn't get into

ward politics. And in the years since I wrote the city charter, they

have done all the things that I was careful to avoid. That obviously,

is just my opinion. And I was invited to become city attorney of Cape

Coral, the first, and I declined to do that, but I did go to the first

city council meeting which my notes indicate was held on December 3, 1970,

at 2:30 in the afternoon. And of course, I knew all of the original city

council and secretary and everything because they were all former members

of the incorporation committee. It's been really fun working for the

company as far as the outrageous things they would ask you to do. And

I feel that it's an integral part of my life now. My career anyway.

D--Tell me a little bit more about Leonard. What do you remember most about


him that you could tell us about?

R-Well, Leonard was one to do just about anything .to make money. Many

people think that when he originally bought land in Ft. Myers and was

going to build a development, that he probably was acting with less than

honorable principles. If it failed somehow he would walk off with the

money. It turns out that he was fantastically successful and he built

a city which is now bigger than Ft. Myers. And I understand, and I

wasn't involved at that point, Leonard who came from Baltimore who had

run and owned the Charles Antel Company, came into Ft. Myers and met

with Harry Fagan, who was at that time the president (and this was

like in 57 or 58) of First National Bank in Ft. Myers. Harry had enough

faith in him to loan the money he needed to get started, And, but about

Leonard, you said that many of your sources have said that he had an in-

terest in women over and above marriage. I can confirm that that is

true. He had a nice apartment set up in each of the projects where he

had developments. He was an avid tennis player. He tried to take good

care of himself. I never saw him drunk and I was with him very frequent-

ly. There was a period of time there in about 1969 through 1971 where I

was asked to meet with him and other company officials almost weekly.

I was flying to Miami at that time and the company had their own airplane

so I flew on Gulf American airplanes becuase they had a regular shuttle

service back and forth between places and Ft. Myers and their headquarters

was in Miami. Leonard loved the finer things in life. I remember one time

that he and I were having dinner with a couple of other people. I can't

remember if it was called the DelPrado Inn or what but it was near the

sight of the present Holiday Inn and their wine list in that restaurant

was things like Mogan David and generic Chablis and generic Burgandy.

And Leonard says, "Bring us a bottle of Chateau Muton Rothschild. And of course

they didn't have that. They said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Rosen, we don't have

that." He says, "well get it." And about fifteen minutes later they


showed up with a bottle of Chateau Muton Rotschild that they had found some-

where in the vicinity of Cape Coral, but not at the DelPrado Inn.

D-Do you think that Leonard was really had this dream of building a city,

or was he building a city to make money?

R-He was building a city to make money. He probably felt good about seeing

what he had created. I think that anybody would. But I think Leonard

was really in it for the money. He was promoter and he was a hell of a

promoter. Physically, he ws not large. My recollection was that he might

have benn 5'7" or 5'8". And as I say, he kept himself in shape. And he

worked very hard. And he had some good people around him. At the same

time, he had a bunch of salesmen who would say anything to make a sale and

Leonard knew what they were saying.

D--But, he really didn't do much to discourage that.


D--Tell me a little bit about Bill Carmine. His name keeps popping up, but

nobody can tell me too much about him.

R-He started as an attorney in private practice in Ft. Myers. He was married

to the daughter of another Ft. Myers lawyer. Her name was Madeline. He

became county attorney, which is the attorney for the county commission.

Back in the days when Gulf American was needing a voice with some authority

to it, so they hired him as their attorney. As I told you earlier, he

became vice president of Gulf American and moved to Miami. IHe had a very

sweet deal, because part of his contract was if he would issue the title

insurance for all the lots sold in Cape Coral and Golden Gate Estates.

And he made a few bucks on each one of those and the total amounted to

pretty close to a million dollars. Gulf Amerian often signed things & didn't

read them and in this case they didn't understand that Bill was to get

this money and so he had to sue them. But I understand the settlement

was in the neighborhood of a half a million dollars. Bill was an outdoors-


man. He liked to hunt. He would cook out and we frequently took trips

together to GAC properties to go hunting. One of them was a big ranch

of abuot 35,000 acres on the Kissimnee River, called 'Kicco Ranch. There

was an old farmhouse in there and we used it as a hunting camp. And there

were lots of deer and turkey up there and wild hogs because the Kicco

Ranch adjoined the Avon Park Bombing Range & every time the federal

government starting shooting them up in there, all the animals would run

over to Kisso Ranch. And one time in that farmhouse, we had our eating

table in the corner by the fireplace, and one time when we were there

and sitting at the table the ceiling caved in because there was a raccoon

that was using the place next to the fireplace chimney as a warm spot to

raise little babies. The ceiling tile was old and coming to pieces and

one of these baby raccoons fell right down on to a pecan pie. And Bill

got divorced from his wife Madeline and he subsequently left the company

and I think was living off some property, some acreage north, several

counties north of here. ANd he eventually died of cancer. And he was

one of those Ft. Myers lawyers of that era that were sort of like Florida

crackers. Wherever he came from, he may have been a Florida cracker. But

their interest after they left their law office, generally their interest

was drinking and going to the woods.

D-Did you think he was pretty much in agreement with what Leonard was doing

with Gulf American or was there conflict between them?

R--Well, it's hard to remember all of those things, but I think Bill was a

pragmatist and as long as they were selling lots and he was getting title

insurance and so forth, I think everything went O.K. It doesn't stick in

my mind that he was a moralist. Some of things the company did weren't

very moral.

D-There is one guy who comes up, not having worked for the company, but they

bought land from him.. It was a guy named Edward Green. From over in


Palm Beach. Do you remember that name at all?

R-No, I don't.

D-I believe he had a company which was called Jupiter Properties. I know

that he had purchased a piece of land over here that became the first

piece of property that Gulf American bought. Down at Red Fish Point,

Yacht Club area. And it had been sold to Ed Green and that group of men

in Palm Beach.

R-O.K. That was before my time. He was probably four years before I came


D-So, by the time that you came around, he was not around.

R-I do remember their land agent that used to buy property for them without

the sellers knowing who they were selling to. His name was Bob Henshaw.

D-Tell me about him.

R--Well, Bob was sort of a rough and ready type individual. I think he was

a consumate liar, but he made some good purchased for the company and I

think he made a lot of money on real estate commission.

D-So, he was a realtor that went around basically and bought properties for

Gulf American.

R-He was a land agent. He put things together.

D-Except that the people didn't know that they were selling to, Gulf American.

R-If you want to know more about him, his son is a practicing attorney in

Sarasota, I think. And his name is Bob Henshaw, Jr. Let me tell you an

anecdote here. This I could hardly believe myself. In September of 1972,

the company received a demand from their former vice presidnet who held

a general contractor's license that they used to pull all their permits.

Jim Petrides was his name. Petrieds hired the Woteski law firm in Punta

Gorda to sue the company because they were claiming that for two years

after Jim had left the company, the company was still using his contrac-

tor's license number to pulll permits for all the homes they were building


in Cape Coral. And I thought this was absolutely impossible because at

all times they always had somebody with a general contractor's license.

And they would have no need to used his license. So, I remember going to

Punta Gorda and I met with Petr.ides lawyer, Bob Mandell, who subsequent-

ly became one of my best friends. And I had the company go through all

of their records and source material until I was satisfied that I had

everything that they had and it turns out, that they had indeed for two

years after Petrides left the company they were selling permits using

his contractor's license. And we ended up paying Petrides 50,000 dollars

in cash having done that.

D-About waht time span was this?

R-This was in September of 1972.

D-So, two years previous to that, they had been doing that?

R-yes. This was another example just like the failure to get dredging per-

mits. They could have done, they could have substituted whoever's license

was working for them, it would have been Tom Weber at that time. They

didn't need to use the Petride's license. They just simply had done it

by virtue of not paying attention. And it cost them money. There was

another time when they printed a brochure and it included a photograph of

a fisherman who had caught a big shock and was holding it up and

the fisherman, they hadn't bothered to ask him if they could use his pic-

ture in the thing and they published it. Well, he hired Harry Blair, a

local attorney and sued the company and we settled that for 5,000 dollars.

Just, you know, they were too big, in too much of a hurry to pay atten-

tion to the fine details. And it got them in trouble time after time.

D-That was a Gulf American brochure, not a GAC?

R-I can't remember.

D--I'm sure I can check on that, That sounds like stuff they would do

though. It's....


R-We used to influence people, the company used to try and influence peo-

ple by entertaining them a lot. And among those who liked to go to the

woods to go deer hunting, I participated in a lot of those hunting trips.

And I would have chairmen of county commissions and particularly the

heads of building and funding departments. And engineers. And I remem-

ber a wild jeep ride up at Kicco- Ranch back in about the mid-sixties.

A county enginner and I were sitting in a box on top of a jeep and we

were, the jeep was chasing a bunch of wild hogs and we went across this

field and we were holding g on with one hand and shooting at the hogs with

the other. And one of the most entertaining things to me was a former

Coller County official, who I will protect by not even naming what he

did, always dressed up in a coat and tie to go hunting. I mean, he

dressed up in a coat and tie all the time, that was his only mode of

dress. And I remember one time, again, in the mid-sixties, seeing him

sitting in a jeep that was stuck in the middle of a canal-up at Kicco

Ranch and with no way to get out in a coat and tie. And he was a slender,

rather elderly man who didn't probably weigh 1301bs. So, one of the other

guys walked out there and picked him up like a baby and carried him back

to dry land.

D--So, they used Kicco Ranch for a lot of entertaining? Before it ever


R--It became River Ranch Acres. They built an airstrip up there and they

built a motel with a restaurant and we had some good times up there.

D--Why do you think the Rosens began to build the other properties which

were basically acreage sales as opposed to building cities? Was it just

the cost?

R-Well, they weren't just acreage sales. For example, the community at Golden
Gate, east of Naples, started out as some lots and some acreage. River

Ranch ended up as acreage. I think that the Fakahatchee strand area was


always intended to be acreage. They even considered doing a camping

condominium down there where you could buy an undivided share in the land

and you could camp out. As I said earlier, that later became state land.

Because of the overdredging. I would suspect that where Leonard and the

gang sold acreage it was because they could make more money that way.

That by selling all land than by letting somebody else improve it with

houses and everything. They had another big development in southern

Arizona just south of Nogales. South of Tucson, called Rio Rico and they

did the GAC thing down there. They built a motel and a restaurant. Their

engineer in Cape Coral was a Cuban emigre. And his name was Frank

DeNavarra. And his father was either president or vice president of the

Cuban airlines when they had to leave after Castro. And Frank was a big

hunter. We used to go dove hunting in what is now the Cape Coral Indus-

trial Park. And he had a bunch of his Cuban buddies up from Miami and

they were all shouting in Spanish. I think things like "Ariba, Ariba" which

means up in Spanish. And he invited me when he became project engineer

at Rio Rico to go out there and hunt doves because the dove hunting was

just fabulous. And this was in 1969. And '68 and '69. YOu know it was

like a continuing party to work for the company because so many things

happened all the time.

D--What did relationship did DeNavarra and Tom Weber have?

R-DeNavarra worked for Tom Weber.

D-So, Weber was over all the engineering, development....

R--Weber was their top dog when it came to working on land and building things.

D-DeNavarra would be assigned to a particular project?


D-So, he worked at Cape Coral and....

R-Later moved to Rio Rico.

D-Those were basically the two that he worked with?

7 g


R-That I know of, yes. And he's currently living in Miami somewhere. He

is a great big heavyset, outgoing, enthusiastic fellow who everybody liked.

He was a lot of fun.

D-Tell me a little bit about Hertzfeld, Bernard.

R-I don't remember very much, if anything, about Bernie Hertzfeld. The

people that I worked with were the corporation general council which was

Bill Carmine, and later Harry Warren and Harry was I think became to the

general council in 1967. And of course, with Leonard. I did a lot of

things directly from Leonard to me. And, particularly Tom Weber and

Frank DeNavarra and they had another engineer, Raul Philip Verde and

I can't begin to tell you how to spell that name.

D-What was the realtionship between you and Herzfeld when he.... From what

I understand, a lot of the legal stuff went through him. Is that not


R--Things that were given to me, I do not recall them coming to me through

Herzfeld. They would come to me from the general council and from Leo-

nard, directly, and on a lower scale, from Tom Weber. They were always

trying to solve problems. And Tom became very nitpicking. For example,

the city of Cape Coral after it was established, did not like the design
of the storm sewer that they company was using and they wanted them to

used a different kind. We already had a big inventory and spent a lot

of money on them. So we had meeting after meeting after meeting just

to let the comapny to continue to use their storm sewer gratings.

D--Tell me a little bit about Arthur Rutenburg.

R--Arthur was building in Cape Coral and I don't know a great deal about his

relation with the Rosens. But I do remember meeting with Rosen and
Arthur' s
Arthur Rutenburg and we were in one of A model homes discussing some-

thing, I don't know exactly what we were discussing. And I later had

dinner with him and Leonard at the Cape Coral Country Club. I don't


remember anything in the conversation that was pertinent as to shaping

the company or Cape Coral.

D-Any idea why Leonard quit using Rutenburg to build their homes?

R-I have absolutely no information on that.

D-Did you ever meet Milt Mendelson?

R-Yes. I think I met just about everybody concerned with the company at

one time or another, but I only have, you know, memories of those people

that I worked with sort of on a day to day basis.

D-Did you have a feel as to whether Mendelson had a lot of influence in

the company?

R-I understand that he did. I believe that he did. I don't remember his

role, whether he was financial or planning sales, or what. But his name

came up all the time. But I just didn't have that much contact with him.

D-Was he at Cape Coral very much?

R-I had a feeling that he spent a lot of time at Baltimore, I'm not sure

about that. I'm sure he was at the Cape and other areas from time, but

I can't tell you how frequently.

D-Any other people here, locally? You mentioned Harry Fagan over at First

National. WEre there any other people that you know of locally, that

were really supporters of Leonard Rosen and Gulf American, really backed

them, whether they be in....

R-I'll tell you somebody who didn't. Have you ever heard of Pete Petrie?

PEte was originally Gulf American's pilot. They used to have a cesna,

I think, where they would take people for rides to look over Cape Coral.

And Pete later became a realtor and he was in competition with the com-

pany. He had an office that was built right, just west, on Cape Coral

Parkway where the four story Gulf American headquarters building was.

And he would do.... When Gulf American would bring a busload of pros-

pects and sell them company property., Petrie would greet them at the


door of the bus and try to sell them his property. And he and the com-

pany were always at odds with each other. And Gulf American never planted

trees. They planted Eureka Palms right down the middle of Cape Coral

Parkway so that his office would be hard to see. It was the only planted

median in the whole city, right in front of Petrie's office. Generally,

I don't think most people were supportive or believed in Cape Coral in

the early days. And I can't remember any other well known Ft. Myers

residents or Lee Countians who were big backers of Gulf American with the

exception of the county commissioners for the Cape Coral district. That was

Bruce Scott after, the first one was Mack Jones. And no prominent names

really come to mind.

D-Was there a feeling within the county that, was there any kind of anti-

semetic feelings, that we don't want these Jew boys out there, or we don't

like them, or that they would go away.

R-I think that was really a lot of anti-semetism. One of things that people

used to resent was when DelPrado Parkway was a two lane gravel road like

1959, when I first drove over to Cape Coral. I had come down in late

'59 interview with George Allen and he told me that he was thinking of

opening a branch in Cape Coral. We went over there to look at it. They

had salespeople who were dressed in what looked like sheriff's deputy

uniforms with a sewn on cloth emblem on the left brest of their tunic

that looked sort of like a sheriff's badge. Or some kind of a security

badge. When you tried to drive into Cape Coral they were there looking

like a guard box and they held up their hand and would make you stop

because they were trying to solicit you to buy land. And, Ft. Myers

at that time, was a sleepy little laid back town with a lot of conser-

vative people and when Leonard came in as a big city high-pressure real

estate developer, I think they probably resented it a great deal. That

was the feeling that I had. They didn't enjoy a sterling reputation. I


think they were in the right place at the right time and they were very

very successful for a lot of years. And after they were sold to GAC

and GAC took Chapter 11 and was reorganized into Avitar which is a pre-

sent entity, a lot of people lost a lot of money then. But they started

something that is going to out live all of us, because Cape Coral is

going to be a big, big city one of these days.

D-That's what I hear. Like 60,000 people now.

R-We still, I don't personally, but people on this side of the river still

resent Cape Coral because they don't want the midpoint bridge and they

say things like they ought to build a bridge that goes east and north

and west so it stays in Cape Coral.

D-A couple of things and I think we will be all done here. Did you ever

know Joe Maddlone?

R-I remember the name. I'm sure I did know him but I can't remember any-

thing about him.

D-You weren't involved in any of the financial arrangements and money and

stuff like that, or was that all Leonard doing that?

R-That was Leonard. I never got involved in that.

D-Were you ever in on any of the purchases of land?

R-As to the decision and what the terms would be?

D-Yes. And the actual....

R-Well, I closed a lot of sales. I remember one in particular. Where

they purchased quite a big amount of land,several 100 acres.I thought

I had some notes on that. Well, on several occasions, I would do the

actual closing on the purchase transaction. And we sometimes were buying

from people who were really hard to deal with. And we would haggle ex-

cessively, even at the actual closing, over various details.

D--Whay would they be hard?

R-The kind of people that sold land to Guld American, there were several

of them who were just as hard to get along with as Leonard himself.


Like the WEststones. They are Jewish. They are volatile, and they are

stubborn. They are a perfect match for Leonard Rosen. There is another

family, the Zemel family, whose partiarch bought lots and lots of pieces

of land in Lee County back during the depression and who would stand in

the path and have to be purchased by Gulf American. So, we had to deal

with the Zemel family and they were very hard to deal with. There was

a former retired airline pilot who owned a lot of property. And that's

the man that I'm referring to in the closings when we had difficulties.

I can't remember his name right at the moment. And....

D--Were they just constantly just looking for more land?

R--Constantly. The Zemels essentially owned all the land north of Alligator

Slough. It was a drainage way north of Lee County. And we were constantly

trying to buy that from the Zemels. The Zemels were constatnly wanting

impossilbe things in the way of price. The company considered buying the

20,000 plus acre Barnie Baron Ranch and establishing what essentially is

the General Development Coamunity of Port LaBelle. Leonard came within

a little bit of buying that ranch and doing what General DEvelopment had

done. And I think he and his wife are still alive. And I think they

probably live in LaBelle or somewhere. I remember him showing up at the

Pageant dance about six or seven years ago and I met him at that point.

So, yes, they were constantly considering buying.

D--Any other huge tracts of land? That they were looking at that they didn't

get? Wasn't there a large tract in the central part of the state that

-was owned by the Mormon Church or something?

R--Oh, the Iormon Ranch. They did not buy the Mormon Ranch, but they did

buy after Disney World came into existence, they bought a fairly small

ranch just north of lake Wales. And then through Bob Henshaw, they

essentially tried to do the same thing as Walt Disney did, is assemble

a big large tract which would essentially been everything south of Dis-

ney World. And they did put together a fairly large tract up there,


maybe 14 or 15,000 acres. And today, for example, in an area where I

used to go deer hunting up at this ranch, is a well-known Florida re-

sort. Where the Florida Bar had a real property sectionineeting & I was stay-

ing a condo up there on the property where the deer an wild pigs had

been just before.

D-There is a couple names that have come up that I haven't found too much

on. The Poinciana Park near Ocala?

R-You know, you've got me on that one. I remember the name. Poinciana

rings a bell, but where it was and what they were doing with it, I have


D-Does Bare Foot Bay?

R-Yes. That's in Miami. Wait a minute. I forgot about Bare Foot Bay.

O.K. That was....

D-Well, I understand it was a mobile home park, but I'm not quite sure. Near


R-O.K. I remember Bare Foot Bay. I never had any legal work in connection

with Bare Foot Bay. But you know, they almost bought the property just

south of the Bonita Beach Road which goes all the way down to Wiggins

Pass. That was owned by Lely and Gulf American was going to buy it

and make an extensive gulffront, bayfront, waterfront community down


D-I understand they did buy some land down there in that area.

R-They did, but wait a minute. O.K.

D-If I remember right, it was roughly 550 acres.

R-I forgot. I'm telling you the wrong story. They did buy it. They bought

it from Lely. And I went down there several times because it was one

of the best beaches in the whole area. Gulf American was the only person

that would let you in there. You had to be friends of the company to use

the beach. And I had forgot about that one. And I guess they must have


sold it later.

D-I don't think they ever developed it or did anything with it.,

R-Wow. We've been talking a long time. I didn't realize how long we had

been talking.

D-O.K. One other question. Do you have anything to do with the Cape Coral

Bridge or anything with that deal or all of that?

R-The Cape Coral Bridge was arrived at between Bill Carmine and the

county commission and I got into it after it had already been authorized.

And was built., I remember very clearly that the county commission thought

that the Cape Coral Bridge would fail to be able to pay off its bonds be-

cause not enough people would use it. And the county had required Gulf

American to put up either 100 or 150 thousand dollar cash bond. And at

the point and time when the Cape Coral bridge was paying that bond, my job
was to get the county to realese the money to the company. I did.

But it required a lot of haggling.

D-When did Carmine become? General counsel?

R-I think he left Ft. Myers and went with the company in '62 or '63. Some-

where around there. Because I was looking over my notes and I know that

I was working with the company in the early '60's so I would say that he

may have left in about '63, perhaps.

D-Anything else you can remember? Anything else about the Rosens that

you particularly remember that told a little bit about who they were?

R-Well, I hardly ever saw Jack. As I said, he was straight laced, he had

a heart problem. And I don't think he participated too much after the

real early days. Well, I used to see Leonard all the time. Either in

MIami or here in Ft. myers. And you know, looking back on it now, he had a lot
of faith in a real young attorney: that hadn't been in practice very long.

And he let me do things with a degree of responsibility that were

probably pretty big and unexpected. A few other incidental things


that I remember. When they were blasting to create the canals at Cape

Coral, people used to complain that their house foundations, the walls

were cracked. They would sue and I would have to hire seismagraph

crews. I had to go out and show that the way they blasted wouldn't have

hurt anything. And I remember they wanted the cable television franchise

in 1964 and I set that up and established their cable t.v. company which

at that time was called Gulf Communicator's Inc. And we had hearings

with the county commission to get the franchise. I remember Connie Mack

who was their vice president for public relations and he was always put-

ting out fires. The company was notoriously tight in spending money

and when people perceived a problem, if you wanted to get the company

to move, you had to get Connie Mack to intercede with you. He was very

kind-hearted and he still is. He spends a lot of his time these days

at the regional medical center as a volunteer. Very warm-hearted man,

S and his son is Connie Mack, III who is in Congress. One of the most

interesting things out there was they had a det named Ed Tohari.

And Ed had a weekly newspaper in Cape Coral & he was from Poland & he used to

write all kind of libelous things about the company, at least in the company's

opinion they were libelous. About their scandalous sales practices

and everything. And they had me sue him for libel. And I had investi-

gated by a private investigator and we got a report with a lot of

things that didn't look very good in it. Eventually he quit publish-

ing the paper. We never paid him anything, but I forget how it was.

D--Do you Iow when that suit was?

R-Yes. That was in practically the whole year, December of '65 to Jan-

uary of '66. I've got it writtne down here.

D-What was the name of that paper? Do you remember?

R-I sure don't.

D--I can look that up. Were there any other detractors, people that were

critics? YOu mentioned Petrie. You mentioned Tohari.


R-Petrie and Tohari were two of the principle critics. Down in Coller

County they had a very strong detractor who was a retired fellow who was

always filing federal lawsuits that clouded title to company property and

he was extremely well known down there, but I have totally forgotten

his name.

D-Was his name Conover?

R-That doesn't ring a bell. NO.

D-Who was the chief person running Golden Gate? That whole project doen


R-It was a retired admiral. But I can't remember what his name was. I

usually had virtually very little to do with Golden Gate.

D--Was it Jung?

R-Yes, Jung.

D-Why do you think Leonard and Jack finally sold out? Do you think there

was so much pressure from the state and stuff? Did they just feel like

it was easier to get out?

R--Well, the pressures were mounting at that point. And the only mistake

that Leonard made in selling the company, I think that it was a good

time in the company, is that he took stock in GAC corporation that

went into a voting trust for ten years. And the thing went under, GAC

went under.

D--So, he couldn't sell the stock?

R--No. If he could have, he would have.

D-Most people I've talked to have been unsure of whether he could have sold

it or not. I assumed he couldn't.

R-Both Leonard and Jack's stock was in a voting trust. But when they pur-

chased Gulf American Land Corporation, I think GAC stock was only worth

like fifteen or twenty dollars a share and I remember specifically that

it went up to forty five dollars a share after Leonard sold out and he


had big capital gains. I even bought 100 shares of GAC stock myself.

D-Oh, here's a name. Kenny Schwartz, did you know him?

R-Oh, yeah. Kenny was about as falmboyount as Leonard. He was the youngest

vice president the company ever had. When he went to work for the, when

I first met him, he was about the same age that I was. And I was like

thirty. Now, he might have been a couple of years younger than was. I

think he was in his early twenties when he went to work for the company.

He was as you probably read in one of these histories, the first resident

of Cape Coral. He was the absolute first. And he was a lot of fun,

talked a lot. I guess he was probably pretty good at his job. And he

has used me as his personal attorney in the last five years in selling

some land he owns here in Ft. Myers. I've handled about three real

estate deals for him. I hear from Kenny every once in a while. He lives

in Hollywood.

D-He seems to be doing fairly well.

R-I think Kenny has a pretty good pile under his belt by now.

D-I think I've run out of questions.

R-Well, I have about run out of recollections, so.... But it was fun just

reading all my old diaries. REally, they are just appointment books, but

they've got names and dates and lawsuits and things like that. There is

one other name that I've got that was in sales, Byron MIaharrey. I used

to work with Byron some.

D--So, he was in sales?

R-Yes, I think he was selling condos for the company at that point. I

ended up doing about a dozen different jobs with him. Oh, here's one

thing I meant to. I set up Harbour South Condominium which is just at

the west end of the Cape Coral Bridge on the south side.

D-The tall building.

R-Yeah. It's about six stories or so. The company, and this came out

just about eight months ago, they had a portion of the parking lot on


county rigLt-of-way. And when they are widening Cape Coral Parkway now they

are losing something like 20 parking spaces. But the company on the

condominium plot plan showing a little encasement of the improvements in

the parking lot and everything. The parking lot is in the right of way.

And the unit owners came to me because I'm pretty well known in the

condominium practice and asked me to sue Gulf American or something. I

discussed it with TerryJLennick my law partner, who is government regu-

lation of land use. Because they had it shown clearly, people didn't

realize the import of it. They really have no complaint now. They are

having to redo their parking lot. That was typical of the brass things

that the company might do. I never even noticed that myself until the

people brought it in a year ago., even though I wrote to condo docs myself

D-Let me ask one other question. I understand that there were often times

when they would get an option on a piece of land, or maybe not even get

an option on it, a handshake agreement. They would draw up their sales

maps and they would sell lots from that before they actually owned it.

When they had a certain number of sales then they would close the sale.

R-That is absolutely typical of what you might expect from Leonard Rosen.

And although I don't know, or at least I don't remember any direct

instances of that/ what I know about the company and the people involved

tells me that their probably did do that. You know, they had marketing

all around the world. At one point in time you could walk down the

streets of London and get solicited to buy land in Cape Coral.

D-That's what I understand. Anybody else around in the local area that is

still around that would know.

R-Well, there was, up until recently. One of their general contractors

became a very successful contractor in private business here and he died

of cancer about eight or nine months ago. And his wife is still around.

She might be worth talking to. I have reached the age where you think of


things but you can't think of specifics. And I can't remember his name.

There are a number of lesser employees. A bunch of them at Lehigh Acres

now. Bud Jorgesen, for example, either does or until recently did work

at Lehigh Acres. And if you were to talk to somebody in the Lehigh

Corporation you would probably find two or three ex-Gulf American people

out there.

D-Was there any competition you feel from Lehigh or General Development

or did Gulf American pretty much ahve their own show and everybody else

was pretty much forced to follow.

R-They were the power in land sales, in this area at least. Lehigh as always

been a fairly sleepy little community. Leghih was run entirely differently.

They still had high pressure sales tactics, but the reason, in my opinion

that their community didn't' grow as fast as Cape Coral was number one,

the location. But number two, the Lehigh Corporation until recently

never sold any commercial property. They always kept it themselves. And

leased it, and as a result they don't have any big stores over there.

And they bus people in from Miami, but they never owned an airline. And

it hasn't been financially successful. They ahve been sold and resold and

resold and I don't even know who owns them right now. There's some

very interesting stories about Lehigh if you ever decide to write some-

thing about that.

D--I'll be back to talk to you when I start that. Good. Thank you. Is

there anything else?

R--No. As I said, it was just a unique experience in my law career to repre-

sent somebody like Leonard Rosen. YOu Imow, I made money doing it and

I had a ball. He let me do a lot of interesting things.

D-Did he ever think the thing was going to fail?

R-I never got an indication from him that he did. No. But I'm sure that

he didn't tell me everything.


D -Anything, any phrase or camnent that he used to always make?

R-It doesn't stick in my mind.

D-Good. Thanks.

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs